How Bad Is Alcohol Withdrawal?

Once a person has become physically or chemically dependent upon alcohol, detoxing without medical help isn’t easy. In fact, without the right support, abstaining can actually be dangerous. If you’ve tried going “cold turkey” before, the fear of withdrawal symptoms could be keeping you from making another try at sobriety. The good news is that although alcohol withdrawal can be incredibly intense, it doesn’t have to be.

Professional detox services are designed to make this first and most important step in recovery as safe and comfortable as possible. With medication assisted treatment (MAT), the early symptoms of withdrawal can be minimized with medications. Best of all, these early interventions can actually keep patients from developing more serious withdrawal symptoms including delirium tremens. With MAT, detoxing is far less difficult on the body and the mind. Moreover, the entire detox process can also be much shorter. Many alcoholics think that the hardest part of detoxing is getting over their cravings for alcohol. When they try to detox on their own, they blame the inability to withstand temptation on themselves.

They often cite insufficient willpower or other personal shortcomings as the reasons why they cannot stop drinking. In reality, however, alcoholism is a complex disease. It affects the central nervous system (CNS), and countless other systems throughout the body. When people drink regularly and heavily over extended periods of time, the brain and body become unaccustomed to functioning without alcohol.

As a result, whenever one or more drinks are missed, widespread distress signals arise that can include:

  • Chills and excessive sweating
  • Rapid changes in body temperature
  • Nervousness and confusion
  • Pounding headaches
  • Nausea, stomach cramps, and vomiting
  • Dizziness

The medications used in MAT make it easier for the body to adjust to being alcohol-free. Not only does this help patients make it through detox without sustaining serious physical injuries or experiencing extraordinary discomfort, but it also gives them an opportunity to focus on other aspects of treatment. With detox services and support, you can make it through the withdrawal process quickly, and can begin working on developing and implementing a solid, long-term recovery plan.

What Happens When Alcoholics Go Cold Turkey?

Going “cold turkey” is what people do when they choose to stop drinking on their own, and without any means for mitigating how their bodies respond to sudden abstinence. Sadly, most people are not prepared for the effects of alcohol withdrawal, or the many different ways in which their bodies and brains cry out. When you drink alcohol, your brain responds by releasing powerful neurotransmitters like dopamine and other endorphins. These are the chemicals that make you feel good when you’re drunk. However, the more that you drink, the more that your body’s natural dopamine production is disrupted. More importantly, dopamine doesn’t just exist to make people feel euphoric. This chemical and other neurotransmitters like it control a vast number of functions all throughout the body.

For example, dopamine plays a hand in governing your fine motor control, coordination, and balance. It also keeps you motivated and makes it possible to stay focused on complex tasks. Due to significant changes that have happened in brain chemistry over time, some of the advanced symptoms of withdrawal can include:

  • Heart palpitations
  • Dramatic rises or decreases in blood pressure
  • Changes in blood sugar levels
  • Cognitive difficulties
  • Hallucinations

Without the medical interventions provided by MAT, some people enter into a state known as delirium tremens. Whereas early alcohol withdrawal symptoms indicate significant internal distress, delirium tremens represent failure or near-failure of essential, basic functions.

Receiving professional detox support makes abstaining from alcohol both easier on you and easier on your body. Medical professionals can mitigate early distress so that it never spirals out of control. Additional support is also provided as the initial, physical symptoms of alcohol withdrawal abate. These secondary support measures alleviate the psychological stress that’s commonly part of post-acute withdrawal symptoms or PAWS. Together, these efforts will help bring you through one of the most physically and emotionally challenging phases of recovery, and with very minimal risk of long-term damages.

If you’re eager to become sober and want to detox with the benefit of trained, professional assistance, we can help you find it. Get connected today by calling 614-705-0611. Our counselors are always standing by with information on the best addiction treatment programs for your needs.